Last week, we had the honor to be interviewed by the editor of Hotels Magazine. See below the interview on how we are trying to share our knowledge of sustainable hotel and lodge operation in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
HOTELS Interview: Paying it forward By Ann Bagel Storck on 2/28/2014
Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality has won multiple awards for its sustainable practices, and now the San Jose, Costa Rica-based company, led by President and Co-Owner Hans Pfister, is looking to share its knowledge with others in the industry. From August 20 through November 15, Cayuga is offering rates at its seven Central American properties starting at US$120 per night to individuals working in hospitality in the hope they might be able to pair a getaway with a chance to learn more about Cayuga’s various CSR projects.
HOTELS spoke with Pfister about the program as well as the broader role of CSR in the hotel industry.
HOTELS: Who is the main target for this offering?
Hans Pfister: People that have a calling or a passion for this. I think it can be a general manager, a human resources manager, an F&B manager “” I think it can go all across those areas. We think we have a lot of things that we can share that would be very interesting for hotel professionals in more traditional hotels and, of course, people who are in similar settings to us in other parts of the world.
HOTELS: Do you think there will be takeaways even for someone from a large hotel or major brand?
Pfister: I think so. A few years ago we had Frits van Paasschen of Starwood stay at one of our eco-lodges with his family over vacation. Starwood has done quite a few things in terms of sustainability over those years. I have not talked to Frits in person, but I want to take a little bit of credit in terms of inspiration. The systems might not be able to be applied one for one; it’s not a copy-paste. I think it’s a little bit of inspiration, thinking differently and adapting it to your environment. So I do think it can work for anybody.
HOTELS: What do you see as the main benefits for participants? What do you hope they take away from the experience?
Pfister: We don’t have a fully structured course planned, but we thought just spending an hour or so with a general manager walking around or having a meal with our sustainability coordinator and talking about what has worked and what has not worked could be interesting. At all of our properties we offer what we call a sustainability tour “” a two to three-hour back-of-house tour for any guests. That’s something that the people who come through this package would have to take.
I would like them to see some of the community or environmental projects we are doing. They’re different in all properties. Some might be a little bit more focused on education; others might be environmental, focused on turtle nesting or reintroduction of species into the wild. We can certainly combine several properties; it would be ideal if they come for a week or 10 days and experience at least two or three different properties and see different projects that are going on there.
Hospitality professionals can experience Kura Design Villas in Uvita de Osa, Costa Rica, for US$180 per night thanks to a special ” sustainability training” package offered by Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality this fall.
HOTELS: What do you see as the main return on investment for Cayuga in offering something like this?
Pfister: The rates that we’re offering are basically a service charge. We’re really not making money on this. It’s more about us sharing what we’re good at and hopefully inspiring other people and helping make the hotel industry a better, greener industry that has less negative impact on the environment and more positive impact on communities.
HOTELS: What do you see as the main broader benefits of CSR, and what are your thoughts about its growing prominence in the hotel industry?
Pfister: I think it will continue to go forward “” it’s the right thing to do. I think it’s not going forward fast enough for my taste. There are a lot of people who still haven’t bought into the idea completely and who are just doing what’s necessary to comply with policies.
When people’s hearts get touched, or when people see and experience “” this is when the magic starts to happen. That’s probably the motivation of this “” trying to get people to see some really cool, different things, and then get them to think, ” What could I do in my place to make it better?”